The King Faisal University Medical College opened about 30 years ago. The admission policy of new medical students at that time was based solely on cognitive skills related to the matriculation scores as outlined by Whitehouse in 1977.3
This policy did not address other important admission criteria,1
and resulted in about 50% students dropout from the Medical College. King Faisal University Medical College now believes that high scores in the matriculation exam should be coupled with other evaluation criteria for the proper selection of medical students.12,28
The matriculation score in the new policy constitutes about 30% only of the total evaluation score, and stresses the scientific subjects. This change in the admission policy has resulted in a dramatic reduction in student dropout to less than 5% in the last few years.
Applicants initially submit their certificates on completion of the final year secondary schools and the marks obtained in physics, biology, chemistry and mathematics. Even though a minimum score of 90% in these subjects is a basic prerequisite, about 800 female and over 1000 male students apply. Only a tenth of this total number (about 180) is eventually accepted each year.
Selection of these applicants is based upon a written “Admission Examination” that is composed of two parts. Part One comprises multiple choice questions in four subjects already taught in secondary school: physics, biology, chemistry and mathematics, as well as in Islamic sciences and the English language (English is the official teaching language in the College of Medicine). The score for this exam is 35 marks. Part Two measures the IQ, personal capabilities and general knowledge of the students, with a 30 mark score. These parameters are considered mandatory by many centers.1,3,12,20,21
Evaluation is conducted by a specialized organization called the “Saudi Center for Assessment and Evaluation for Higher Education”. The total score of this exam (65 marks) is added to the final year secondary school score (35 marks), making a total score of 100. Students with the highest scores are scheduled for an interview that is preceded by the completion of a detailed “Questionnaire Form”. This questionnaire, evaluated by a psychiatrist comprises five headings: (i) the principal motivation for becoming a medical student; (ii) preliminary knowledge on the nature and duration of medical education and the teaching process in the Medical College as compared to the Secondary School; (iii) aspirations and positive attributes in the applicant's personality; (iv) negative and weak points in the applicant's personality; and (v) any volunteer activities engaged in by the applicant and lessons learnt from them.
The interview is carried out by two or more Faculty members, and lasts 45-60 minutes with each applicant. Conduct of the interview by a group rather than an individual allows for maximum objectivity in the selection process.33,34
The interview focuses on the following non-cognitive criteria: (i) personal awareness of the applicant of the major health problems in the Saudi community; (ii) expression, listening and communications skills of the applicant; and (iii) personal characteristics of the applicant as general interests, motivation, discipline, respect for others, self-respect, self-esteem, and ability to work in a team.
In accordance with many medical schools in the United States and the United Kingdom,18,19
all nominated students have to pass a medical check-up before being accepted in the College of Medicine.